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A station for the 21st century: San Mateo’s Station 24 reopened after complete facility renovation
July 23, 2014, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
From left, San Mateo firefighters Randy Schimpley, Gino Lavezzo and Capt. Cal Eitel discuss dinner preparations in the kitchen of the newly constructed two-story Station 24 on South Humboldt Street.

San Mateo firefighters Randy Schimpley, driving, and Gino Lavezzo work out of the city’s newly constructed Station 24 on South Humboldt Street.

Firefighters spend nearly a third of their careers making their assigned stations their homes and, after working out of a temporary facility for nearly a year, San Mateo firefighters returned to Station 24 after a complete facility renovation.

Station 24, at 319 S. Humboldt St., reopened July 9, is not only the busiest in the city, it’s in the top five for most calls in the entire county, said Fire Marshal Michael Leong.

The new two-story state-of-the-art facility provides drive-through bays that allow engines more maneuverability and space for a reserve engine, exercise area, equipment storage, shop area, a lobby and living quarters for firefighters on the second floor.

The old station was built in 1948 and was the oldest station in the city, Leong said. It no longer met current seismic safety standards and was long overdue for an upgrade, said Leong. A lot has changed in fire service since then and, with the inclusion of a paramedic on each engine team, the former layout didn’t support modern operations, Leong said.

“All of those operational things have changed dramatically. It’s time to jump into the 21st century and hopefully this station will serve our needs for the next 50 years,” Leong said.

The $3.5 million station was funded in part by former redevelopment agency funds and by Measure C, a 1997 bond measure that allocated a portion of the city’s hotel occupancy tax to help pay for the construction and renovation of another three new fire stations — 21, 23 and 26.

The new 5,724-square-foot station is twice as large as the previous single-story building and required the city to pay more than $1 million for a neighboring home it acquired through eminent domain, Leong said.

San Mateo firefighters work two days on, then four days off meaning they practically spend one third of their time living out of the station to which they are assigned, said firefighter Gino Lavezzo.

The new station boasts air conditioning, space for a reserve engine, a dedicated gym and full kitchen.

“This one here definitely has some creature comforts, which makes our job a lot better and the firefighters are really appreciative of it,” Capt. Cal Eitel said. “It’s really nice to be in a facility that houses the necessities of your job.”

During the year-long construction, Station 24 was operated out of a temporary tent erected at the site of a city-owned parking lot on Fifth Avenue. The tent will be dismantled later in the week and the lot will once again be re-striped for parking, said City Manager Larry Patterson. Yet, as the site was purchased with former redevelopment agency funds, the city will need to establish a long-term state-approved plan for the old Kinko’s site.

The previous living quarters at Station 24 were made up of one common bedroom and one bathroom, said Deputy Fire Chief John Healy. The remodel supports gender-neutral facilities such as four bedrooms and separate bathrooms for employees, Healy said.

“So it’s a more comfortable work environment for both males and females,” Healy said.

Another motivating factor for the redevelopment was the difficulty with which firefighters had to back the engines into the station, Healy and Eitel said. The majority of engine accidents occur while driving in reverse and the previous station only had one entrance off of South Humboldt Street, Eitel said.

Prior, Engine 24 would have to partially block South Humboldt Street and led to several cars hitting the engine, consequentially putting it out of service, Healy said.

With the new drive-through apparatus bay, drivers can easily drive in through a rear garage entrance on South Humboldt Street as well as pull out onto the busy street.

The new station has an outdoor patio on the second floor and will be adorned with a landscaped living wall.

The San Mateo Fire Department is inviting the public to visit and celebrate the reopening of Station 24 with a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony 10 a.m. Aug. 26.


(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: station, firefighters, leong, engine, healy, street,

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